TWO decades ago, Redan Lions were almost extinct.
An incredible football milestone cropped up this week without much roar about the league but one many long-time Redanies will never forget: a key turning point and a reignited flicker of belief.
The Lions mauled Daylesford by 108 points on August 7, 1999 - their first victory in four years and two days.
Country football across this region is still trying to find equilibrium to keep old clubs alive. This is most keenly felt in highly publicised crippling struggles, week-in and week-out, for some clubs in the Central Highlands, Mininera and Maryborough Castlemaine leagues this season.
It would be an understatement to say heavy loses make it hard for clubs to remain sustainable. These are complex problems in a modern world with increasing competing interests.
Breathing new life into Redan was far from an easy feat from those who fought tirelessly and with great passion to save the Lions for the Ballarat Football League.
This is not about being a lesson for clubs in the battle right now.
Looking back on this milestone might offer hope. But it is an important reminder at what might have been lost.
The loss of football-netball clubs undoubtedly leave gaping holes in their community. Clubs are about far more than sport. They are a meeting point and a place for connection for players and their supporters. They can be a powerful place for driving cultural and social change with far-reaching ripple effects into the broader community. And they can rally and champion the need for their most vulnerable and in-need members.
This extends to state level. Ballarat has lost both its state league football and netball clubs in the past two years.
A decade ago, North Ballarat Roosters were on their way to a successful Victorian Football League premiership defence. It was the second cup of an historic hat-trick when 10 years earlier the notion of a regional club claiming the flag was unthinkable in the competition.
But who would have thought 10 years later the Roosters and our state league netball pathways would be closed. This severs a chance for the best players from across the region to take their games to the next level and, for many, to feed what they had learned back into grassroots clubs.
Once gone, the task of resurrecting a club is almost impossible.
The Courier's sports journalist David Brehaut described the anticipation of what could be possible at City Oval on August 7, 1999 as a larger crowd for the game than what the Lions had been accustomed "...but as word spread that a Redan victory was about to be a reality, the number of onlookers swelled considerably".
What the Lions were about to achieve still meant something to so many people.
A decade later, the Lions were creating a dynasty. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Lions fifth BFL senior premiership within eight years.
What happens now is up to this current pride of Redan Lions. A strong list in an incredibly tight jostle for top-eight placings means anything is possible for those ready to pounce.
Whatever happens to these Lions, it is important to remember where they came from - the brink of extinction.
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